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VA APT Researchers Receive Large-Scale DARPA Awards

Three researchers with the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center of Excellence at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center (LSCVAMC) have won major contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Together the three awards comprise a significant portion of DARPA’s annual award budget. 

Each contract was awarded through DARPA’s new Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, which aims to deliver naturalistic sensations to amputees and enable better control over their prosthetic limbs through direct connections to users’ nervous systems. 

Award: “Restoring amputees’ sense of touch” to Dustin Tyler, PhD.
Dr. Tyler’s has helped restore a sense of touch to amputees, and this DARPA award will help to speed development of a mobile system amputees can use anywhere. Tyler’s current system, which uses electrical stimulation to give amputees a sense of feeling, is currently limited to the laboratory and two patients.

When finished, the only external piece of hardware for the user, other than the charger, would be an iPod-size computer to receive input, convert it to signals and communicate wirelessly between the system components.
If milestones are met during the next 18 months and beyond, the team may be eligible for nearly $16 million in DARPA funding over five years. 
Award: “Evaluate Prosthetic Limb Technology” to Paul Marasco, PhD.
Prosthetic limb technology has undergone significant advancements in recent years, but there is currently no standardized set of metrics to evaluate these technologies. Dr. Marasco’s team intends to develop a suite of outcome metrics for advanced prosthetic limbs that are clinically relevant and rooted in cutting-edge science. These metrics could potentially change the way that prosthetic devices are currently evaluated.

If successful after the 18-month study, the grant could be renewed for subsequent Phases II and III, with a total award amount of up to $2.5 million.

Award: “Natural Sensation for Lower Limb Amputees” to Ron Triolo, PhD.
Awarded $780,000, Dr. Triolo’s program will establish the feasibility of re-establishing natural perceptions of how the trans-tibial or trans-femoral limb prostheses interact with the environment that are indistinguishable from that of the intact limb. This will allow users to better balance, prevent falls and negotiate complex and unpredictable environments, without conscious attention or even in the dark. The 18-month study aims to leverage the many recent technical advances in neural and prosthetic technologies resulting from various projects taking place in Cleveland under the auspices of the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center of Excellence.

The multidisciplinary research team led by Dr. Triolo will explore the practical performance of a system consisting of external and implanted components that communicate wirelessly to acquire information from physical sensors integrated into commercially available lower limb prosthesis.

About Our Researchers
•    Dr. Ron Triolo serves as the Executive Director of the Cleveland APT Center and is primarily responsible for all aspects of its administration. He is a tenured Full Professor of Orthopaedics and Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and Senior Career Research Scientist at the LSCVAMC.
•    Dr. Paul Marasco is a principal investigator in the Advanced Platform Technology Center of Excellence at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  He is an Associate Staff Scientist in the Department of Biomedical Engineering with the Lerner Research Institute of Cleveland Clinic.
•    Dr. Dustin Tyler is a principal investigator in the Advanced Platform Technology Center of Excellence at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University.

About the APT Center:  The APT Center is one of 17 designated Centers of Excellence in the Rehabilitation Research and Development (RR&D) Service of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  Established in 2005 as a collaboration between the LSCDVAMC and CWRU, the APT Center focuses on applying the most recent advancements in microelectronics, material science, microfabrication, wireless communication and mechanical design to the pressing medical needs of disabled veterans, and translating them into viable clinical options.  Investigators, project staff and support specialists associated with the Center concentrate their professional effort on translational research in the areas of: Prosthetics and Orthotics, Health Monitoring and Maintenance, Neural Interfacing, and Emerging Enabling Technologies. Clinician-researchers associated with the Center include some of the “Best Doctors in America” as named by Cleveland Magazine and Best Doctors, Inc. as well as multiple recipients of prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the NIH Director’s Innovation Award, and VA Career or Senior Career Research Scientist Awards.  APT Center related activities have resulted in more than 60 invention disclosures and 15 patented or patent-pending concepts and prototypes that will serve the clinical needs of veterans with sensory, motor and cognitive deficits or limb loss.   For additional information about the APT Center, please follow the link: http://www.aptcenter.research.va.gov/

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